Understanding different kinds of photo files


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Understanding different kinds of photo files

A computer screen displaying different photo file types, including JPG, BMP, PNG and GIF

What's coming up?

In this activity, you’ll find out about the different kinds of photo file types. These are also called image files, because they include drawings and graphics, as well as photos. In this course, we’ll concentrate on photo files only.

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Your photos are stored as files

A computer stores all the things you do on it as files. For example, music, drawings, videos, photos, documents – these are just different kinds of files.

A graphic of a laptop computer with a folder containing different types of image files, including video, music, photos and drawings
Examples of different computer file types including PDF, BMP, DOC, JPG, GIF and PNG

Different file types are for different uses

Your computer can save and store photos using a few different kinds of files. These are called file types and file formats by your computer’s operating software and photo editing application, or app.

There are many file types that you can use for photos, but we’ll focus on the most common. Each one is best suited for a particular use.

Common image file types

These are the most common file types you will see when working with photos or other kinds of images, such as a drawing or painting saved on the computer.

  • BMP: Known as a bitmap. Has very good quality but also takes up a lot of space in your computer’s storage
  • JPG/JPEG: Pronounced jay-peg. Takes up less space and is usually the best for photos
  • PNG: Pronounced pea-en-gee. Doesn’t take up too much space and is good quality, but is better suited for art
  • GIF: Pronounced giff or jiff. This can be the smallest file, but quality varies. It’s not a good choice for photos.
The most common image file types are JPG, GMP, PNG and GIF
A smartphone taking a picture of a delicious meal and saving the photo as a JPG

How most photos are saved

When your mobile device or digital camera takes a photo, it usually saves it as a JPG file. Some photos are saved as PNG, but these photos are usually from the internet.

When to use BMP

The BMP file type for photos saves as a very large file compared to JPG, but the quality of the image is very good.

Sometimes, if it’s a special photo or one you want to print very large, then BMP is the best choice of file type.

An example of a BMP being used as a large poster on a wall
A GIF image file is usually low quality and can be static or has a limited ability for animation

The GIF file type

When you go on the internet, and especially on social media, you may come across GIF files. These look good on the screen of your device (and some are even animated or short movie clips), but they don’t print at a good quality.

Other image and file types

You may also come across other image file types. Among these are RAW and TIF (or TIFF) files. These are special file types used by professional photographers and are very large.

Two other image file types are RAW and TIFF

Well done!

This is the end of the Understanding different kinds of photo files activity. You’ve learned about BMP, JPG (or JPEG), PNG, and GIF files and when they are suited for use.

In the next activity, you can find out How a photo’s size works on the screen.

A computer screen and some common image file types including JPG, BMP, PNG and GIF